Marvel’s second season of “Jessica Jones” picks up after the events of the “The Defenders” and continues the show’s unique noir aesthetic. Contemplative voice-overs, shadowy streets and mysterious secrets are all back for Jessica’s (Krysten Ritter) second round.
Unfortunately, its ensemble of supporting characters gets the short end of the stick. Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville), the most likable and morally sound character, regresses from his tragic but triumphant arc last semester to one in which he’s sidelined by both Jessica and the plot. This is all the more frustrating because the writers easily could have used Malcolm to temper the cynicism of the show and Jessica herself.
The six Netflix Marvel shows are masterful in both quality of story and production. Their more nuanced portrayals of heroes are refreshing, providing depictions that are committed to exploring mental health and its effects in “Jessica Jones” specifically. However, if the second seasons of “Jessica Jones” and “Daredevil” have indicated anything, it’s that the Netflix universe is flirting dangerously close with the divide between dark and gritty and just downright hopeless.
This season also furthers the worrying and extremely ill-timed obsession Netflix Marvel shows have with arming their unpowered characters. “The Punisher” seemed intent on showing how damaging gun ownership can be, yet Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) relied heavily on weaponry and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) went into detail about why she should be allowed to own a gun.
When Jessica and Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) come across an arsenal in episode three, Trish prevents Jessica from simply throwing the guns away, because she might need them later. These shows want to make a statement on the role of guns in our society, but their ultimate stance is worryingly unclear.
The unofficial tagline for this season, “It takes a monster to stop a monster,” has always been Jessica’s greatest conflict. She can’t help but feel that she is a monster — that she’s something evil and twisted. Her actions from last season — namely, the murder of Kilgrave — still haunt her.
Ritter continues to demonstrate her mastery of the character, constantly tailoring her depiction to remind us how Jessica is a woman living with PTSD. The cinematographic depictions of her panic attacks are just as off-kilter as last season. Sharp editing intercuts present day with dreams and flashbacks, visually helping us understand what Jessica experiences in her day-to-day life.
When a new superpowered being turns up who seems to possess a number of similarities to Jessica herself, she is left wondering whether she’s just fooling herself by trying to be a hero. This internal doubt is personified by a return of David Tennant as Kilgrave.
Tennant’s character remains terrifying; his presence as stomach-turning as last season. Jessica’s hallucinations of Kilgrave provide fascinating moments of character development. Her eventual banishment of the hallucinated Kilgrave is so powerful precisely because it is a step towards Jessica seeing herself in the same the way the audience does — as a hero.
The ending of this season is not easy, and in many ways, it is quite devastating. In the final shot, though, we are left with an indication that Jessica is trying to believe that tragedy is not her ultimate fate. While it is worthwhile to question whether “Jessica Jones” goes too far in its bleakness, there is no doubt that Jessica and the show shine most in its moments of hope, precisely because of how hard won we know it to be.
“I hate starting at the beginning,” Jessica tells us, but in doing it anyway, she shows us all how to start again — providing the second season’s most impactful takeaway.
Contact Danielle Hilborn at [email protected].